Discrimination against women, people with disabilities, LGBTI people and ethnic minorities remained widespread. Credible reports of torture and other ill-treatment in police custody persisted and there continued to be no accountability for human rights violations following ethnic violence in the south of Kyrgyzstan in 2010. Prisoner of conscience Azimjan Askarov continued to serve his life sentence, without any prospect of release.
Kyrgyzstan remained among the poorest countries in Central Asia, its economy heavily reliant on remittances. In November, investigative journalists uncovered a money laundering business that had transferred at least US$700 million from Kyrgyzstan to countries around the world, causing a major public outcry. In August there was an armed stand-off, between law enforcement officers and supporters of the former president Almazbek Atambaev who refused to be questioned in connection with corruption charges against him and in October he refused to attend the opening of the trial against him.
Violence against Women
Early and forced marriage, as well as bride-kidnapping, remained prevalent. According to figures from the National Statistics Committee in May, one in 11 teenage girls aged 15-19 were married. UNICEF noted that 13.8 % of women under 24 were married through some form of coercion. During the first six months of the year 118 criminal cases of bride kidnapping were opened, a significant increase over previous years. Amendments to the Criminal Code which entered into force in April increased the maximum punishment for bride kidnapping to a 10-year prison sentence and a fine of US$3,000. In a report published in May 2019 on his visit to Kyrgyzstan in May 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health called for legal measures to prohibit child marriages and for a greater effort to prevent and prosecute perpetrators of human rights violations and to protect victims.
Police failed to respond adequately to allegations of domestic violence. Aizat Chirtekova’s situation was illustrative. She described how she had called the police numerous times during 2018 about her violent husband but never made a written complaint for fear of retaliation. Police failed to issue protection orders or open a criminal investigation. In August that year, she briefly left the family home in Osh after a particularly violent attack when her husband allegedly beat and attempted to strangle her and hit her with a bicycle. The following month she threw herself from a fourth-floor window holding her seven-month-old child. While Aizat Chirtekova was charged with attempted murder of a child, no investigation was opened into the domestic violence allegations against her husband for. In March the Osh Prosecutor’s Office again refused to investigate her husband. In December she was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment for attempted murder.
Rights of people with disabilities
On 14 March, the President signed a bill, previously adopted by parliament, ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Despite this positive step people with physical and mental disabilities continued to face barriers to inclusion in Kyrgyzstan, including being unable to access public buildings, such as schools, government institutions and hospitals, and to travel by public transport. In his report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health reported that mental health-care services in Kyrgyzstan were still based on “a narrow and outdated biomedical model” with “an excessive reliance on institutional care”. The Civil Code retained provisions making it possible to deprive people of legal capacity “if, as a result of a mental disorder, they cannot understand the meaning of their actions or control them”, and to appoint a guardian over them in violation of Article 12 of the CRPD which guarantees equal recognition before the law. During a visit to the men’s Psychoneurological Social Residential Institution in Tokmok, Amnesty International was informed that 67 of the residents had been deprived of their legal capacity on one day in 2017.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
The Constitution protects against discrimination on any grounds (Article 15.2) but does not specifically mention sexual orientation and gender identity as protected grounds. There remained no legislation that would explicitly encompass discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
On 1 May, a picnic in a park in Bishkek organized by the feminist and LGBTI movement 8/365 was disrupted by more than 20 young men, including members of a well-known nationalist group, who threw eggs and paint at the eight participants in the picnic and by-standers, and filmed, insulted and threatened them. Police officers who were present in the park did not intervene. The 8/365 organisers subsequently lodged a formal complaint against their attackers with the police, which was still being investigated at the end of the year.
Torture and other ill-treatment
On 1 January, a new Criminal Code and Criminal Procedural Code came into effect. These Codes reinforced guarantees against torture and other ill-treatment by expressly outlawing torture and other ill-treatment and excluding as inadmissible any evidence obtained through torture and other ill-treatment, clarifying when police detention starts and thus ensuring that detainees have the right to a lawyer from the actual moment of arrest. The new Criminal Procedural Code also specified that once a torture complaint has been made medical evidence must be gathered within 12 hours.
NGOs, however, continued to receive reports of torture and other ill-treatment and ethnic profiling by the police. On 20 November, an ethnic Uzbek man was arbitrarily detained by police officers from Ak-Burinsk police station in Osh and allegedly beaten to force him to confess to stealing two mobile phones. He was in the car of a lawyer who worked for the human rights group Positive Dialogue when police officers stopped the car and detained him without explaining why. Two further police officers arrived and showed some papers in Kyrgyz, which the detained man could not understand, but did not allow the lawyer to explain the contents to him. The lawyer later located the man at Ak-Burinsk police station where he told her that he had been beaten. The lawyer ensured that the man was taken to a hospital to document his injuries. The doctor agreed to examine him in private, away from the police officers who had beaten him, but refused to fill in a form documenting the injuries in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol. The man has lodged a complaint about the alleged torture.
Prisoner of conscience
Kyrgyzstan had still not carried out full and impartial investigations into the human rights violations that occurred during and following the ethnic violence in June 2010 in Osh following which ethnic Uzbeks were targeted disproportionately for prosecution.
Azimjan Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek human rights defender, continued to serve his sentence of life imprisonment on trumped up charges of murdering a police officer during the 2010 events. In February, Azimjan Askarov lodged a request with the courts to review his life sentence following the introduction of the new Criminal Code which would preclude a life sentence in his case. In particular, the new Criminal Code no longer provided for life imprisonment for complicity in the murder of a police officer, one of the offences for which Azimjan Askarov was convicted. On 30 July, Chui Regional Court reviewed his life sentence, but decided to uphold it unchanged. A further appeal to the Supreme Court was ongoing at the end of the year. In March, Azimjan Askarov was moved to a prison camp outside Bishkek for those serving life sentences, but he was transferred back to Prison Number 47 in Bishkek in August. His health has deteriorated while in detention and he continued to be denied necessary and adequate healthcare. He is a prisoner of conscience imprisoned for his human rights work.